For the first time in more than a decade the athletics country championships will be hosted in Geraldton, with 350 competitors in the Mid West city over the weekend. After 12 months of hard work and preparation, competitors from over the State will travel to the Geraldton Athletics Centre for the annual championship from January 12-14. Geraldton Athletics member Lauren Renwick said it was more than a decade since the city had hosted the country championships, but now it was back and there had been lots of work going on behind the scenes. “We’re hosting for Athletics West so there are 350 competitors registered for the weekend,” she said. “Pretty awesome, it’s been a lot of hard work to get it back, obviously the new swimming pool and things like that helped our cause for Athletics West to look at us.” The gold and silver medallists for each event qualify to register in the upcoming State Championships. Hosting the competition allows more opportunity for local talent to compete, without having to worry about travelling. “We’ve got 49 Geraldton competitors competing, from under-6s all the way through to open,” Renwick said. “We’ve got probably double the numbers what we would normally have when we travel, so to get all those extra kids their taste at a State competition, or even a country competition that they wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to because they’ve got to travel for it.” Geraldton Athletics member Jodi Heinrich said the old long jump pit was the biggest obstacle Geraldton had to overcome before it could host. “The last couple of years we just weren’t ready, we needed to repair our long jump … so then last year at Northam we said we were ready to have it this year,” she said. “So we had 12 months to get it organised and everyone’s putting in hard work to get it here.” The Geraldton athletics club received support from the State Government last year to install a new long jump track, which officially opened on December 2. “Our long jump pits have probably been the biggest thing, so we obtained three different grants to re-do our long jump pit which was almost $60,000, that needed to be done,” Renwick said. The opportunity brings not just competitors to the club but opportunities for locals, as Athletics West held clinics in Geraldton during the build-up. “Athletics West is running a level one coaching clinic for Geraldton on Friday … we’ve also got sprint clinics being offered by Lyn Foreman (Commonwealth Games coach) and Kyle Ennis (WA sprint champion) on Thursday,” Renwick said. The opening ceremony is on Friday, January 12 at 3.30pm at the Geraldton Athletics centre, with events running all weekend.